South Carolina shared the SEC East title last year and brings back four starters and five seniors, but the Gamecocks are picked to fall three spots, according to preseason voting by media covering the league.
It is the latest sign of how much the SEC is expected to improve this season.
The Gamecocks are picked to finish fourth in the East behind Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, in voting that was announced Monday.
USC senior guard Devan Downey made the preseason All-SEC first team for the third consecutive season. Downey also received three votes, out of 25 total, for preseason player of the year.
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Kentucky was the overwhelming pick to win the league, with Wildcat center Patrick Patterson earning the most votes (11) for preseason player of the year. Freshman John Wall finished second with six votes.
But Wall, the nation's top recruit, did not make the preseason first-team.
Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado also got three votes for player of the year, while Tennessee's Tyler Smith received two. Those two joined Patterson, Downey and Mississippi's Terrico White on the first team.
Wall was joined on the second team by LSU's Tasmin Mitchell, Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy, Mississippi's Chris Warren and Auburn's DeWayne Reed.
Kentucky received 20 votes to win the league title, followed by Mississippi State (three) and Tennessee (two).
South Carolina received 77 points in voting for the East, between third-place Vanderbilt (90) and fifth-place Florida (68). Georgia was a unanimous choice to finish last in the division.
The predicted order of finish in the West was Mississippi State, Mississippi, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Auburn.